Are you multi-modal? Isn’t it time to give it a try?

How do you commute and how long does it take? More importantly, how much does it cost you?

Here in the UK, we have some of the longest commutes of all of our European neighbours. Not in distance per-se, but in time.

Thanks to the UK's small size - at least when you talk globally - we've got a pretty high population density, especially if you live in the south.

Add to that small roads and the persistent societal notion that going to work means going to an office block from nine to five, eight hours a day, five days a week, and we've got a recipe for road-based gridlock.

Depending on where you live depends on how you get to work. While a growing number of us are taking public transport and/or cycling to work, the car remains a favourite among millions of us every day. We get in our cars on our driveway and we get out of our cars outside the office.

But I'd like you to consider an alternative solution for travelling to work, one which could actually work rather well with electric cars - and it's something BMW is promoting with its recently-released i3 electric car: multi-modal transportation.

multi-modal transport encourages you to use the most effective form of transport for any given situation

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Multi-modal transportation, as the name suggests, revolves around the idea that you don't just take one form of transport to make a journey. Instead of driving from point A to point B, you might end up walking for part of your journey, or taking a bus, or perhaps a train.

What's more, multi-modal transport encourages you to use the most effective form of transport for any given situation, saving you time and possibly money too.

Imagine the following two scenarios. Let's call them Scenario A and Scenario B. In both, you work in an office in Central London, but you happen to live in the rural wilds of Cambridgeshire. Because you work at a forward-thinking company, they let you work from home three days a week, so taking a season-ticket on the train isn't cost-effective.

Scenario A

After an early breakfast, you jump into your car and make a beeline for the M11, the central road artery between London and East Anglia. While you can make the commute in under an hour in ideal conditions, roadworks and an accident slow your commute up substantially and you end up arriving at your office with moments to spare before that 9:30 meeting.

You're flustered, stressed and frankly fed up. The last part of your commute - a scant twenty miles from the M25 to central London, has taken more than an hour and a half.

But it's still cheaper to do it by car than it is to take the train. Or at least, that's what you've convinced yourself. And because you live a little too far away from London, you've also convinced yourself an electric car isn't a good idea because well, you don't want to get stuck on the Motorway with no charge.


Scenario B

After a more leisurely breakfast, you grab your keys and head out to the car. Because you've got an electric car, your car has already charged itself for the day ahead and preconditioned the cabin so it's just the right temperature for you.

You leave the house with 80 miles of range, more than enough to cover the fifty or so miles between your house and a train station on the outskirts of London. Thanks to smartphone apps like Park At My House, you've found a local EV owner near to the station who doesn't mind you parking and charging on their driveway for £20 a week, and the walk from there to the station is just ten minutes.

You leave your car on charge and walk to the station, and because your car has internet connectivity, you already know when the next train is due before you even got out of your car.

There's no need for an expensive ticket either, because the train station you're using is on the outskirts of London, where prices tend to be far lower. You arrive at Liverpool St Station fifteen minutes later having caught up on emails, ready and refreshed for the day. To help keep yourself fit, you take a Boris Bike to the office.

PC: failing_angel [flickr]

Give it a go

Of the two scenarios there, ask yourself which you'd prefer given the technology you have at your disposal today.

Now ask yourself which you'd prefer if there was an interconnection between the different modes of transport. What if your car could book your rail ticket for you, or knew which train you were heading home on so it was charged and ready for the trip home after work?

While BMW is the first automaker to promote multi-modal transportation use in an electric car, I'm convinced it won't be the last. With ever-increasing interconnection between smartphones and cloud-based services, I don't think it will be the last, either.

Traditionally, I've shunned getting the train to London because it's too expensive from where I live. Instead, I've taken my Nissan LEAF, charging along the motorway where required.

But recently, I've started multi-modal trips to and from London. And from my experience, it seems to work.

Why don't you give it a go too?

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